It's nice to see that magazine covers are getting the same book treatment that LP covers have been getting over the last few years. There is clearly a growing market of designers and others interested in seeing what these print 'shop windows' have looked like in the past. The covers of the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Saturday Evening Post, Mad, Fortune and Life are all available in book form.
The other cover book format looks at the market in general and `100 years of magazine covers' falls into this category. The five chapters basically look at celebrity, politics and current affairs, fashion, lifestyle and counter culture and finally (the chapter I found most interesting) the rise of the magazine art editor and the designed cover. Nearly all the 350 covers in the book are consumer titles, trade and professional magazines don't need to compete on the newsstand.
Steve Taylor writes in a general way about the various changes to cover design over the years though it's fair to say that there are plenty of covers included that look like they had minimal design input but were probably including because of their influence or reflect a past time in society. As well as the main text there are frequent sidebars about particular cover styles, designers or individual magazines like Colors, Stern, Fast Company or Esquire. I was surprised that the captions didn't include credits for the various designers, all you get are the title, date, volume and number. There is no index either.
Interesting though all the covers are the problem with the book is that it is hopelessly over designed. For example:
* A simple thing like page numbers are used as a design element, they are mostly 1.25 inches high (sometimes bigger) and are in a different position on each spread and annoyingly don't even appear on every page.
* Each of the five chapters begins on a spread with just the words Chapter 01, 02, 03 etc with the numerals almost a page deep. The next spread has the chapter title in type that fades to nothing across the spread from the left.
* At the end of each chapter there is a spread devoted to footnotes. The text is minimal so it is really a waste of two pages especially as all of the notes would easily fit at the bottom of the page with the relevant text.
* There are frequent pull-quotes, set in display type with underscores that appear on the same page as the text the quote is taken from. Who wants to read the same thing twice?
* The design elements just waste too many pages. The five chapters each have two pages for the chapter number, two pages for the chapter title and two pages for the footnotes. Thirty pages with no covers at all in a 256 page book.
* Perhaps the most serious fault is that so many of the covers are too small yet there is frequently plenty of empty page space and I mean lots of it.
All of the above are just designer whimsy and it's a shame that the visual clutter on most pages totally spoil the interesting cover content for the reader.
I think there are much better titles covering a hundred years of cover design. Have a look at Magazine Covers and Front Page: Covers of the Twentieth-Century. Both have plenty of covers presented in a straightforward intelligent design format that are a pleasure to look at.
***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.